Sunday, December 5, 2010



One hundred and fifty years ago, the citizens of Laurens County were at a crossroads. The most cataclysmic political and social upheaval in the history of our county was simmering. Ten years later our whole world was thrown into a maelstrom. As we reach the true end of the 20th Century, let's look back to the way we were in the middle of the 19th Century.

Following the Clay Compromise of 1850, an election was held on the issue of slavery. The Constitutional Union Party of Georgia was led by Howell Cobb. Locally E.J. Blackshear led the Union Party. When Laurens County's votes were tabulated, 272 voted for the Union, while no one voted for the Resistance. The election of 1860 prompted South Carolina to leave the Union.
A Federal census was taken of Laurens County in the Spring of 1850. There were one thousand seven hundred and forty white males, one thousand seven hundred and nineteen white females, making a total of three thousand four hundred fifty nine white persons, or 53.7% of the total population. There were three free colored males and six free colored females. There were one thousand five hundred seventy five male slaves and one thousand three hundred and nine female slaves, for a total of two thousand nine hundred seventy four, or 46.3% of the total population of the total population. It is interesting to note that 57% of the white citizens and 60% of the slaves were under the age of twenty-one. The total population of 6,442 persons made Laurens County the 74th largest county in the state.

The adult illiteracy rate was forty eight percent among whites. Owing to the fact that most slaves were not taught to read and write, the rate among slaves approached one hundred percent. There were one hundred and seven persons who lived during the American Revolution. Druscilla Pilot, who lived in the David Wood household, was one hundred and eight years old. The vast majority of Laurens Countians in 1850 were natives of Georgia. Approximately five percent of county residents, or one hundred seventy seven people, were natives of North Carolina. Ninety county residents were natives of South Carolina. Of the rest, nine were natives of Virginia, three of Maryland, two of Florida, and one each from Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Alabama. The latter was Gov. George Troup, who was born in the portion of Georgia which later became the State of Alabama. Freeman Rowe, of Connecticut, and Nathan Tucker, of Rhode Island, would play important roles in Laurens County's involvement in the upcoming war. There were four foreign-born residents: a Mr. Christopher from Switzerland, Abraham Doll from Germany, and Ann McNeal and M.P. Simon from Ireland. Charity Branch had the largest family of children- an even dozen. The population density was one person for every fifty three acres, keeping in mind that at that time Laurens County was one of the largest counties in the state and included a portion of present-day western Johnson County. There were only six hundred and thirty four families in the county in 1850, a figure which does not include slave families.

Farming was the major economic activity of Laurens County in 1850. Cotton, corn, sweet potatoes, and wool were the main products. On sixty two thousand two hundred forty nine acres of land, Laurens County farmers produced enormous quantities of food stuffs. In the year before the census was taken, Laurens County farmers produced 8,902 bushels of wheat, 291 bushels of rye, 211,958 bushels of corn, 7535 bushels of oats, 8,885 bushels of rice, 6648 bushels of peas and beans, 118 bushels of Irish potatoes, 82,995 bushels of sweet potatoes, and 11 bushels of barley. Farmers produced slightly more than one and one half million pounds of cotton, 17, 119 pounds of butter, and 14,849 pounds of wool. Other minor farm products produced by county farmers included $100.00 worth of orchard products, 1000 pounds of sugar cane, 5205 gallons of molasses, and 1909 pounds of cheese.

Livestock farming was also a major part of agriculture in the county. Census takers counted 1416 horses, 351 mules, 5740 milk cows, 579 working oxen, 13,533 other types of cattle, 8027 sheep, and 24,038 swine, all valued at a little more than a quarter of a million dollars. Just over $50,000 worth of animals were slaughtered for food during the prior year. Farm equipment was valued at thirty one thousand dollars.

Census takers enumerated six schools, six Baptist Churches, and six Methodist Churches in the county. Historical records show that there were at least eight Baptist churches - Poplar Springs North, Dublin Baptist, Bethlehem, Bluewater, Bethseda, New Hope, Centerville, and Rock Springs. Darsey's Meeting House, which later evolved to become Buckhorn Methodist Church, is known to have been the only 1850 Methodist Church which is in present day Laurens County. Maple Springs Methodist Church, located on the banks of the Ohoopee River in Johnson County, was located in Laurens County in 1850. There may have been a Methodist Church in Dublin, but there are to extant records to prove this assumption. One Methodist Church, Gethsemane, was organized one hundred and fifty years ago this week by Kinman Jones, Edward Holmes, William Pope, Francis Drake, and William Brantley in a building located on Dewey Warnock Road about a mile south of East Laurens School.

There were only three post offices in the county: Dublin, Buckeye, and Laurens Hill. There were no newspapers, no banks, and no railroad. Gov. Troup and others had defeated the location of the Central of Georgia railroad through the county. In his 1855 book, the Rev. George White described Laurens County as "a rolling countryside, with a soil of sand and vegetable mold on top of a clay foundation. One third of the uncultivated lands were covered with oak and hickory, while the remainder contained pine trees and wire-grass pastures. The climate is considered as pleasant as any in the United States."

Nearly all county residents lived on a farm. Dublin was a very small hamlet near the center of the county. Most slaves lived on the plantations along the northern end of the county. In the northwestern sector were the O'Neal, Coats, Stanley, Yopp, Hampton, Harvard, Troup, and Vickers plantations. In the northeastern sector were the Guyton, Blackshear, Kellam, Hightower, Holmes, Linder, and Ballard plantations. In southeastern end of the county, were the Gov. Troup, the county's largest plantation owner, and Smith, McLendon, and Kinchen family plantations. The Burch and Noles plantations in the southwestern sector of the county were nestled among tens of thousand acres of virgin pine trees.


Atlantic hurricanes of the Twentieth Century were relatively kind to Georgia. Those of the Nineteenth Century were much deadlier. Deadly hurricanes struck the Georgia coastline head on in 1804, 1813, 1824, 1854, 1881, 1893, and 1898. The latter storm packed one of the biggest punches, striking between Cumberland and St. Simons Islands. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo was headed for a direct hit on Savannah, destined to die out in eastern Central Georgia. The storm turned to the northwest and devastated Charleston and Charlotte in the Carolinas. The storm of October 2nd and 3rd of 1898 moved northwesterly through southeast Central Georgia, including the lower portion of Laurens County before becoming a tropical storm. That made it the only known hurricane to strike Laurens County, which is located more than one hundred miles inland.

On August 27, 1881, a hurricane struck the coast of Georgia, killing an estimated seven hundred persons. Exactly twelve years later, another hurricane hit Georgia's coastline. This storm, which killed an estimated one thousand to twenty five hundred persons, is considered America's third worst natural disaster and the twentieth deadliest Atlantic hurricane in the second half of the second millennium, A.D.. The 1893 storm came up from the southeast hitting Savannah and then Charleston and probably did not impact Laurens County, which would have been on the weaker, eastern end of the storm. Six weeks later, a hurricane killed two thousand or more people in Louisiana. The 1881 storm is estimated to have been the fifth deadliest hurricane in American history. The deadliest storm in American history occurred just over a century ago when eight to twelve thousand people were killed in Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900.

The book "History of Laurens County, Georgia, 1807-1941" states that a catastrophic hurricane moved northeasterly across the southern part of Laurens County in 1882 causing major damage to a wide belt of primeval pine trees. It was said that for many years the area was a wasteland of great clay roots. No newspaper references to this storm have been found to corroborate this storm. Except for the direction of the storm, the event could have occurred during the hurricane of August 27, 1881. The "Dublin Post" reported: "The heavy wind and rain storm which lasted from Saturday night to Monday morning worked untold ruin on the cotton crop. All open cotton was beaten out, and the young stalk often blown or beaten down."

The moon had been full on September 29. 1898. Horace Gould, of St. Simons Island, reported that the wind had been blowing steadily out of the northeast for three days prior to the arrival of the storm. The "northeaster" added to the water level in the marshes and estuaries, which is normally higher in October along the Georgia Coast. The storm struck late in the evening of the 2nd. The inhabitants of St. Catherine's, Campbell, Butler, Wolf, and Chapney Islands to the north of St. Simons Island suffered the most damage - being on the deadly northeastern edge of the storm. All but one person on St. Catherine's was killed. All fifty something residents of Campbell Island were washed away in the storm surge. A little to the south, residents of Darien reported that the storm surge was thirteen feet high.

J.A. Falk, assistant superintendent of the Jekyll Island Club, reported that "we had the most severe storm ever known here - it was a tidal wave." The dunes along the beach were washed away. The fisherman's houses and the northern and southern ends of the island were washed away. The village of millionaire's cottages survived the storm virtually unharmed, despite the fact that the entire island was covered with water and many oaks were blown down.

Cumberland Island, now thought to be the site of the landfall of the eye of the hurricane, was subjected to vicious winds, heavily rainfall, and a high storm surge. Frank Fader's pilot boat was found on a bluff twenty feet above the high water level. Many homes, especially along the northern end of the island, were destroyed. Most of the city of Brunswick was under water. Eight people were dead. Communication wires were downed. Damage estimates approached the million dollar mark. Most of the ships at the docks were destroyed. Further inland, the storm destroyed the railroad depot at Jessup.

In East Central Georgia, the winds began to pick up late in the evening of October 2nd. Damage reports came in from all over southeastern Central Georgia. The "Montgomery Monitor" reported that "one could not look in any direction without seeing evidences of the storm's devastation, or walk more than a foot without encountering them." The entire cotton crop was damaged in Montgomery County, with the sugar cane fairing only slightly better. Travel in and out of Mt. Vernon was suspended due to fallen limbs on every major thoroughfare. In Lumber City, the cotton was damaged along with the remaining fall crops. Many roads were washed out or covered with trees, limbs, and debris. In Cochran, farmers reported that the entire cotton crop was ruined, and the sugar cane crop had suffered greatly. Dodge County farmers faired a little better. Only half of their cotton crop was lost. In Hawkinsville and Abbeville, farmers reported similar destruction of the cotton crop. Unfortunately, since there are no surviving Dublin newspapers from the time, there are no direct accounts of the storm's damage, which most likely would have been similar to other counties in the area.

The storm still packed a powerful punch when it struck Macon. Although there was no thunder and lightning, one observer described the tempest as "a rain blizzard of the fiercest character, such as the oldest inhabitant has rarely seen." The damage was surprisingly light, though H.N. Burke, a trolley conductor, was electrocuted during the storm.

Twentieth Century studies of archival data have concluded that the eye of the storm may have passed thirty miles more to the south than was originally thought. With a pattern of increasing storm surges, which peaked on Jekyll Island at 19 feet, it appears likely that the hurricane made landfall on Cumberland Island. It then passed on to the northwest before becoming a tropical storm in Peach County. The remnants of the storm continued to move to the northwest, making a large loop around Illinois and Indiana before turning to the northeast and returning to the Atlantic Ocean in northern Massachusetts.


A Truly Noble Man

A little more than a century ago, a great man passed from our midst. He was an educator by ancestry, a soldier by necessity, and a minister of the Gospel by divinity. His life in our community spanned the depths of the dark days following the end of the Civil War to the zenith of prosperity at the turn of the twentieth century. Whiteford Smith Ramsay was born on June 8, 1839 in Milledgeville, Georgia. His father's family was rich in its Scotch heritage. The progenitor of the American Ramsays, William Ramsay, married Caroline Randolph, granddaughter of William and Mary Randolph. The Randolphs were the namesakes of William and Mary College in Virginia and the ancestors of three of the more famous Virginians, Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, and Chief Justice John Marshall.

Ramsay's parents, Randolph Ramsay and Mary Cleghorn Ramsay, were children of eminent men. James Ramsay served North Carolina in the Congress of the United States and wrote a widely acclaimed history of his state. Dr. George Cleghorn was a physician and scientist from Edinburgh, Scotland. Randolph Ramsay moved his family to Milledgeville in 1839 following his graduation from Yale University. Ramsay took a position as rector in the prepatory academy for admission to Oglethorpe College, which was located at Midway, near Milledgeville. Randolph Ramsay taught his son, Whiteford, at Oglethorpe until the younger Ramsay transferred to Princeton University in 1858. Later that year, the 19-year old Ramsay came to the floundering town of Dublin, Georgia to open an academy.

In April, 1861, the then 21-year old teacher led the organization of "The Blackshear Guards," a group of local men who would later be designated as Company H of the 14th Georgia Infantry. The men elected Prof. Ramsay as their Captain on July 14, 1861. Two days later, Capt. Ramsay was elected Lieutenant Colonel of the 14th Georgia. Col. Ramsay may have been one of the youngest colonels in the Confederate Army. The company was mustered into Confederate service on July 23, 1861. Twenty five days later, Col. Ramsay resigned his commission from the army.

Ramsay returned to Dublin. The true reason for his return is not known today. In the war years, Ramsay was led toward the ministry. In 1870, Rev. Ramsay converted and was ordained as minister of the First Baptist Church of Dublin. Rev. Ramsay served the congregation for over two decades, retiring as an active pastor in 1891. In addition to his service to First Baptist Church, Rev. Ramsay served at Poplar Springs North Baptist Church for twenty years and four months, the longest period of service in the history of Laurens County's oldest church. In fact, not only did Rev. Ramsay serve as pastor of First Baptist and Poplar Springs North, he also served Rocky Creek Church - all at the same time. During his thirty years in the ministry, Rev. Ramsay also served Ohoopee Baptist Church, Jeffersonville Baptist Church, and Bethlehem Baptist Church, Laurens County's second oldest church. Ramsay was also active in the Ebenezer Association, the governing body of Baptist churches in our area, serving as moderator for eight years and as an officer for over twenty years. It has been said that Ramsay preached more funerals and baptized more people than anyone in the history of Middle Georgia. Many of those baptisms were held in the Oconee River. Ramsay would wade out into the middle of the river and call those wishing to be baptized to join him in accepting Christ as their savior.

In accordance with an act of the 1870 Georgia legislature, the Laurens County Grand Jury of the 1872 April term established the first county board of education. The initial board chose Rev. Ramsay as the county's first school superintendent. The board established stringent standards for teachers, which included passing a seven part exam. The superintendent was not exempt from the exam. Ramsey accepted the challenge and made six perfect scores and missed a seventh one by two-thirds of a point on the school law test. In addition to his duties as a trustee of the school system and as superintendent, Ramsay served as Principal of the Dublin Academy, which was then a two-story wooden building that stood on the site of the present City Hall.

During the 1880s, Dublin's religious leaders led a temperance movement in the city to rid it of the sale of alcoholic beverages. At one time, there were nearly a half-dozen bar rooms in the city. At that time, Dublin had a population of less than five hundred, half of which were women, and half of the remaining people were not allowed to drink because of their age or their race. Eventually the "dry" folks won, and the bar rooms closed.

Rev. Ramsay's contributions to his community extended beyond his religious and educational work. In October of 1884, Ramsay joined other civic leaders and businessmen in seeking the location of a railroad into Dublin. These men knew that a railroad was the key to any future growth of Dublin. Stock subscriptions were sold, and the leaders formed the Dublin and Wrightsville Railroad, which later merged with the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad. The Wrightsville and Tennille came into Dublin in 1886 and gave Dublin a connection with the powerful, and profitable Central of Georgia Railroad. Rev. Ramsay served as treasurer of the D&W Railroad and was elected to serve on the board of directors of the W & T Railroad following the merger.

Rev. Ramsay was one of the foremost leaders of Laurens Lodge No. 75, F. & A.M. in Dublin. Ramsay was made a Master Mason in 1874. He later became a Royal Arch Mason and member of the St. Omer Commandery Knights Templar. Rev. Ramsay served as chaplain of several Masonic organizations and as chairman of the Foreign Correspondence Committee of the Grand Lodge. He served as Worshipful Master of the Laurens Lodge for eight years - longer than anyone in the one hundred fifty two year history of the lodge.

Whiteford Ramsay was re-elected to another term as county school superintendent at the dawn of the 20th Century. During the winter of 1899-1900, his health began to fail. His physicians did all they could do. Ramsay's family decided to send him to St. Joseph's infirmary in Atlanta. After a week of unsuccessful treatments, Rev. Ramsay decided that home was the best place for him to be. On March 16, 1900, Ramsay returned to his home on Bellevue Avenue at its southeastern corner with the street which bears his name. Rev. He passed away just two hours later. A pall was cast over the entire county. Laurens County's most beloved man of the 19th century was dead.

Thousands of mourners, many of them from all parts of the state, came to pay their respects. The old wooden First Baptist Church was too small to accommodate the crowd of people who came to the funeral. The front porch of the church was used as the pulpit. The crowd extended across the street and beyond the academy where Rev. Ramsay once taught. Rev. Ramsay was buried in the Old City Cemetery in the Thomas N. Guyton plot. Ramsay's wife, Henrietta Jane Guyton, survived him by sixteen years and was buried beside her husband in the family plot. Ramsay's elaborate marble monument, made locally by W.F. Womble, was placed over his grave over two years after his death. Rev. Whiteford Ramsay's contributions to our community are still felt today, one hundred years after his death. He truly was, in the strictest sense of the word, a noble man.


The Victory Tour of the Marquis de Lafayette

His name was Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier. He was born in 1757 into a wealthy family of France. He was an orphan by the age of two. Following the death of his father, Marie inherited a large estate. Like his father, he was a soldier. He trained at a military academy and became a captain in the French army. When the teenager heard that the American colonies had declared their independence from England, he acquired a boat and sailed to South Carolina, where he arrived in 1777. In four short but eventful years, the young man became the greatest foreign-born American soldier in history. Marie is more commonly known as the Marquis de Lafayette. Dozens of American cities and counties are named in his honor. The city of LaGrange is named in honor of his home in France. One hundred and seventy five years ago, the boy hero, but then an elderly man, toured the United States on a reunion tour. His travels throughout the country brought him to Milledgeville, the state capital of Georgia, where he was greeted by thousands, including several Laurens Countians.

Lafayette returned to America in 1824, forty years after the end of the American Revolution. Upon the news of his arrival, Georgia governor George M. Troup of Laurens County invited the French hero to visit Georgia on his tour. Lafayette responded from the national capital in January of 1825 stating that he would like to visit Georgia. However, he would have to cover four thousand miles between February and June and that his time in Georgia might be limited. In anticipation of his arrival, Gov. Troup invited any surviving soldier of the Continental armies and militia to assemble in convenient places along the General's route. On March 19th, Lafayette arrived at Yamacraw Bluff in Savannah, the same place where General James Oglethorpe first landed in 1733. Lafayette and his escorts were greeted by Governor Troup, who praised Lafayette in the presence of four thousand greeters by saying, "O, sir, what a consolation for a man, who has passed through such seas of trouble, that the millions of bayonets which guard the blessings we enjoy, stand between you and them."

After a large celebration in Savannah, Lafayette traveled to Augusta, another of Georgia's colonial capitals. From Augusta, the General and his party followed the old road to Milledgeville through Warrenton and Sparta. Gov. Troup meticulously planned LaFayette's itinerary for his eleven-day stay in Georgia. Troup appointed thirteen gentlemen, including John Clark, former governor of Georgia, and Everard Hamilton, brother of Mrs. David Blackshear of Dublin, as managers of the glorious event. Gen. LaFayette was escorted from Sparta by General Abecrombie and the Hancock Cavalry. Just before the column reached the Oconee River on Sunday morning, the 27th of March, they were met by the Baldwin Cavalry. When the procession reached the east bank of the Oconee, a cannon salute was fired from the statehouse grounds. Another round of cannon fire was sent skyward when LaFayette and his entourage reached the west bank of the river. The bells at the Market House and the State House were ringing. Crowds were cheering.

LaFayette dismounted and boarded a barouche, drawn by four handsome bay horses. Lafayette led the procession up Hancock Street to Wayne Street and and on to Wayne Street to Greene Street and the State House. Following LaFayette were Gov. Troup, soldiers of the Continental army, and various government officials. Along the route, which was lined with thousands of people. There were little girls laying flowers along the path and welcoming the beloved General. After a brief rest, the Marquis came out to greet his fellow soldiers in the war for American independence. Gov. Troup accompanied LaFayette to a service at the Methodist Church, which was filled with worshipers who stood in absolute reverence until the General was seated. After returning to his quarters, the General spent five pleasant, but obviously arduous, hours greeting well wishers until ten o'clock in the evening. Another volley of cannon fire was set off at sunset and a fireworks show lit up the early Spring sky.

As the second day of LaFayette's stay in Milledgeville dawned, the men of the Wilkinson Volunteers, Twiggs Volunteers, Milledgeville Volunteers, Clinton Blues, Baldwin Cavalry, and the Hancock Cavalry fired artillery and musketry salutes. They formed a line for a ten o'clock inspection by the General. After an address to the members of the Masonic Lodge, LaFayette was escorted to the State House for a reception. Accolade after accolade was heaped upon the French hero, who humbly responded, thanking the citizens for their praise and regretting that he had no longer to stay in the city. By mid-afternoon, LaFayette finally had time to eat dinner. Gov. Troup and his staff and committees sat down with the General and discussed the arrangements for the remainder of the day. A hot air balloon was sent up during the meal. The feast was spread over seven hundred feet of tables, which were covered with barbecue, roast beef, breads, and other fine foods. A band was playing. General LaFayette was seated at the upper end of the center table, flanked by Gov. Troup on one side and Col. Seaborn Jones on the other. Jones was one of Troup's chief aides and a former Laurens County landowner. Many of Georgia's political leaders were in attendance, including former governor John Clark, Troup's chief political nemesis. Col. Jones called for a toast to liberty. Cheers rang out. The band struck up, "Hail to the Chief." Gov. Troup rose and saluted the General by toasting, " A union of all hearts to honor the 'Nation's Guest' - a union of all heads for our country's good." Once again cheers erupted. Cannons fired. The band played a national march. Gov. Clark followed with a toast to Count Casimir Pulaski, the foreign born defender of Savannah. LaFayette, who rose in gratitude for the fine hospitality he have been given, toasted the Georgia veterans of the Revolution. The grand event was not without unfortunate incidents. A gang of pick pockets, one of whom relieved Maj. James Smith of Clinton of four thousand dollars, moved throughout the crowd. The thieves were caught within a few weeks and sentenced to four years in the penitentiary. One of the cannoneers, not knowing that his shirt sleeve was burning, reached into a box of cartridges and caused an explosion which cost him his life and serious injuries to two others.

The culmination of LaFayette's visit was the Grand Ball at the State House. The rooms were beautifully decorated by the ladies of Milledgeville. Nearly six hundred invited guests danced in two rooms until ten in the evening. Supper was served - the women eating first, followed by the gentlemen. LaFayette and his escort headed out the next morning for Macon, where a similar reception followed. The General's stay in Georgia ended with a visit to Fort Mitchell.

No single military hero has ever been given such a welcome in the history of our state. The gratitude for LaFayette's services to our infant country and the French king's support of the Colonial armies lasted well into the next century, when it became a common expression for our country's soldiers to proclaim upon their arrival in France, "LaFayette, we are here!"


Congressman from the Wiregrass

James Lindsey Seward was born in the infant town of Dublin, Georgia on October 30, 1813. His parents, William and Sarah Roberts Seward, were among the first settlers of the town. Seward's grandfathers, James Seward and Frederick Roberts, fought for independence during the Revolution. The former lost his life in the fight for freedom. The latter died in 1823 and was buried near the Seward home place near the lower end of South Franklin Street. James Lindsey Seward became one of the most influential men in South Georgia in the tumultuous decade of the 1850s. He was a voice for reconciliation in the cataclysmic decade of the 1860s.

William Seward died in 1826. With her father also dead, Sarah Seward gathered her belongings and took James and his younger brother, Hansel Roberts Seward, to another infant town - Thomasville in Thomas County. The family's trek to Thomas County was part of a larger migration of Laurens Countians to the Southwest Georgia community. Mrs. Seward, with the assistance of her sons, opened a boarding house in the newly created town. The Seward House became a place for traveling attorneys, who spent a week in town when court was going on and a few days when they were passing through to other county seats in the circuit. James Seward decided at an early age that he wanted to practice law. James Scarborough invited Seward to come to Hawkinsville to read law in preparation for his admission to the bar, which took place in Hawkinsville in 1836.

Twenty three-year-old Seward's abilities were well known by Thomas Countians, who elected him to represent their county in the Georgia Legislature in the election of 1836. Seward resumed his full time and highly lucrative law practice after serving three one-year terms in the capital in Milledgeville. During this time, Seward met and fell in love with Miss Fannie Tooke of Hawkinsville, whom he married in 1838. The voters of Thomas County returned Seward to the legislature in 1846 and in 1850 for a two-year term.

Seward's successful terms in the legislature led his friends and colleagues to encourage him to seek a higher office. He began his political career on a national level when he was selected to represent the 1st Congressional District of Georgia at the National Democratic Convention of 1852. Later that year, Seward narrowly defeated Francis S. Bartow of Savannah to win a seat in the 33rd Congress. Bartow would become famous for being one of the first Confederate field grade officers to be killed in the Civil War. In the first hours of the first battle at Manassas, Bartow was shot while directing his troops.

James Seward and his next door neighbor, Peter Early Love led similar lives. Love, a son of the first Clerk of Laurens County Superior Court, was trained as a physician, but practiced law as well. In the mid-1840s, Love served as Judge of the Southern Superior Court Circuit, which included his native county of Laurens. Judge Love was a member of the Georgia Congressional delegation, who gave up their seats in Congress when Georgia seceded from the Union in 1861.

James Seward served three terms in the United States Congress when the country was being ripped apart over the issues of state's rights and slavery. Seward, a loyal Democrat, stood in support of slavery, unlike many of his fellow Laurens Countians, who sought cooperation with the northern states on the issue. After declining to return to Congress for a fourth term, Seward accepted the nomination of the Democrats of Thomas County to run for a seat in the Georgia Senate, which he won in the 1859 election.

As the issues of slavery and state's rights came to a climax in 1860, Seward was taking an active role in national politics, serving as one of the Georgia delegates at the Democratic National Conventions in Baltimore and Charleston. By the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, Seward had amassed a fortune estimated at one hundred twenty-five-thousand dollars. Seward donated a large sum of money to outfit and equip the "Thomasville Guards," one of the county's first military companies to begin training for service in the Confederate Army. Seward continued to serve in the Georgia Senate until 1863 in addition to his duties as a trustee of Young's Female College in Thomasville.

The Sewards moved to the outskirts of Thomasville. They established a plantation, which included the present site of Glen Arven Country Club. During the war, Mrs. Seward opened her home to wounded and sick soldiers. The eldest Seward daughter, Martha, or Mattie as she was affectionately known, sewed the battle flag for a local military company known as the "Dixie Boys" or Company A of the 57th Georgia Infantry. The flag became the regimental battle flag and is now in the possession of Lester L. Porter, III, formerly of Dublin. Mrs. Seward and her daughters, Mattie and Fannie, spent many hours preparing clothing and supply packages for the soldiers.

Although Seward was an active proponent of secession, he was just as active as a proponent for reconciliation after the war. He served as a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention of 1865, along with many other men like Dr. Nathan Tucker of Laurens County, who had been a Cooperationist before the war. Georgia governor Charles Jenkins appointed Seward to serve on the State Committee for Distribution to the Needy. Seward joined ex war governor Joseph E. Brown in calling for Georgia's ratification of the 13th amendment banning slavery - a choice which was widely denounced by many Georgians. When Georgia's military commander, General Pope, was about to replace Jenkins as governor, he offered the provisional governor's position to Seward, which Seward politely declined. Just a week later, Seward declined another appointment by General Pope as Supervisor of Registration.

In the years following the war, Seward remained active in public service, particularly in the field of education. Seward served a twenty-one-year term as a trustee of the University of Georgia, a twenty-six-year term as trustee of Young's Female College, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Thomas County Board of Education. During the post war years, Seward became less active in political circles. He did serve as a delegate to the State Democratic Convention in 1870 and the Constitutional Convention of 1877. He abandoned his attempt to return to Congress in 1878 when it appeared that a radical would win in a three-way race.

As James Seward approached his 70th birthday, rheumatism struck ailing his body. For four years as a mere shadow of the man he once was, Seward suffered through his invalism. On November 21, 1886, James Seward's life slipped away. He was laid to rest in Laurel Grove Cemetery, where his beloved wife would join him eleven years later.


Today, Georgians are participating in the election of delegates to the national nominating conventions of the Democratic and Republican parties, which will choose their candidates for the general election this November. In the middle third of the 19th century, when tensions in American politics were at an all time high, a party known as the Whigs came into the scene. The Whigs were an unusual, unlikely, and fragile partnership between the abolitionists of the North and the State's Rights factions of the South. This coalition, while successful at times, led to the eventual dissolution of the party after sixteen years.

The rise of the Whig party in the South came was a direct result of dissatisfaction with President Andrew Jackson. While General Andrew Jackson was one of the most revered men in the South during the War of 1812, President Andrew Jackson drew the ire of many southerners because of his policies on the issues of nullification, the national bank system, and the effort to strengthen the Federal government. In the election of 1828, Jackson drew tremendous support from Laurens County voters. Gen. David Blackshear, one of Laurens County's premier statesmen of the 19th century and a fellow general in the war, served as a delegate committed to Jackson in the Electoral College, which elected Jackson to the first of his two terms.

The State's Rights movement had arisen in Georgia during the 1820s. Governor George M. Troup, a resident of Laurens County, took issue with President John Quincy Adams's directive. Adams enjoined Georgia from acquiring land from Indian tribes and forcing the Creeks and Cherokees from their native lands. The two leaders issued a heated exchange of letters and threats. Gov. Troup got the upper hand, and Georgia annexed the remaining part of her present territory. In the national elections of 1832 and 1834, Gov. Troup moved to the forefront of the Whig party, whose policies eventually led to the secession of the southern states from the Union in 1861.

Jackson, a Democrat, did not run for a third term in the election of 1836. His party's successor, Martin Van Buren, had never been popular in Georgia. Those opposed to the nationalistic policies of Jackson and Van Buren sent delegates to the Anti Van Buren Convention, which was held in the capital of Milledgeville on May 2, 1836. Representing Laurens County at that convention were Bryan Allen, Dr. James S. Moore, and George M. Troup, Jr., the latter being the only son of the venerable governor. Dr. Moore, who lived in Dublin for a short time, was a graduate of the United States Military Academy and a classmate of Robert E. Lee.

Van Buren easily won the election with support from all areas of the nation. The Whig party put up three candidates: William Henry Harrison, Daniel Webster, and Hugh White. The people of Georgia and Tennessee, Jackson's home state, chose another Tennessean Hugh White, who finished third in the four-man race. Naturally, being the home of Governor Troup and therefore the birthplace of the State's Rights movement, Laurens County overwhelmingly supported White over Van Buren or any other of the Whig candidates. The total vote for White was nearly unanimous - two Hundred and eighty-eight votes for White and only one for the scoundrel Van Buren. It is interesting to note, that of the counties which surround Laurens County, only Montgomery County, Gov. Troup's second home county, supported the Whig candidate White. Pulaski, Twiggs, Washington, and Wilkinson county voters supported Van Buren with fifty-five to sixty percent of their votes. Emanuel Countians were much more supportive of Van Buren and voted for him by a margin of eleven to one. On a statewide basis, White barely carried Georgia with fifty-two percent of the vote.

In the Spring of 1837, the State's Rights Party held a convention in Milledgeville. Wingfield Wright, Robert Robinson, and Cullen O'Neal represented Laurens County at the convention, which was held to strengthen the party in Georgia and to prepare for the off-year elections of 1838. Wright joined C.S. Guyton and Robert Robinson as delegates to the convention held in April of 1839. During this period, the Whig factions realized that in order to win the Presidency, they must cooperate to prevent the tyrannical acts of the President by electing a majority of their candidates to Congress. While Laurens Countians were not in favor of the United States Bank, internal improvements, and a protective tariff, they realized that compromise and cooperation was a necessary evil. The new political giants of Georgia, Robert Toombs, Alexander Stephens, Charles Jenkins, and John Berrien, headed the Whigs in Georgia. Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, William Henry Harrison, and John C. Calhoun led the party on the national level.

The coalition began to dissolve in 1840, when Gov. Troup hinted that the State's Rights party should remain neutral in the presidential race. Stephens encouraged Troup to offer himself as a candidate, but the Whigs finally settled upon William Henry Harrison, who was the leading Whig candidate in the 1836 election. Van Buren had grown in disfavor among voters, who had supported him in his first term. Harrison, on the other hand, was a hero for his victory over an Indian force at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Van Buren lost in a landslide to Harrison and failed to carry his own state. Harrison carried Georgia by a margin of eight thousand votes out of eighty thousand votes cast. Van Buren increased his vote total in Laurens County by four hundred percent, but Harrison increased the Whig vote by nearly two hundred percent from the last election. He and easily defeated Van Buren by a margin of five hundred fifty-six to four. A majority of voters from Twiggs, and Washington counties left the Democrats and supported the Whigs. Montgomery County voters staunchly supported the Whigs twenty-one to one. Even the Emanuel voters, who were among the Democratic party's most loyal supporters, voted in larger numbers for the heroic Whig, William Henry Harrison. Unfortunately Harrison became ill while giving his inaugural address and died several weeks later. Six weeks after the election, The Harrison and State's Rights Party held their convention in Milledgeville, where Wingfield Wright, A. Ashley, and Robert Robinson represented Laurens County.

The Whigs lost power in Georgia during the gubernatorial and congressional elections of 1841 and 1842. Democrats captured all of the seats in Congress in the last election under the general ticket system of electing congressmen. The Georgia Whigs held their first convention in Milledgeville on June 19, 1843. Laurens County was represented by Wingfield Wright, Robert Robinson, and W.W. O'Neal. Wright was appointed to the prestigious Committee of Twenty One. Serving with Wright were future Confederate Vice President, Alexander H. Stephens and future Confederate General Robert Toombs, who was almost chosen President of the Confederacy ahead of Jefferson Davis. The committee recommended candidates for state and national tickets. The convention nominated George Crawford for governor. Crawford won the election, which led to a Whig resurgence in the state. However, the Whigs were losing their strength in the South because of the deportment of John Tyler, who succeeded Harrison in office. The State's Rights supporters in Laurens County were drawn between siding with their avowed enemies, the northern Whigs and their treacherous Democratic friends in the South. They chose to remain with the Whigs, who at least would not stab them in their backs.

Conciliation was still the key word in the attempts of the Georgia Whig leaders who were trying to hold the tenuous alliance with the Northern Whigs in the 1844 elections. Georgia leaders, although opposed to tariffs, appeased their northern party members by speaking in favor of them. The national Whig party held its convention in May 1844 in Baltimore, Maryland. Lott Warren, a former resident of Laurens County, served as a delegate. The convention was unanimous. Their choice was Sen. Henry Clay of Kentucky. Clay, an early favorite in the race, lost support in the South because of his opposition to the annexation of Texas. Many Laurens Countians felt betrayed by Clay's position because of their close ties to those who had gone and who would later go to Texas to fight for independence and statehood. James Birney, a northern abolitionist, took Whig votes away from Clay in the northern states. Dr. Nathan Tucker, John M. Hampton, and Robert Robinson served as delegates to the state Whig convention, which was held on June 24, 1844. C.B. Strong, who had served as Judge of Laurens Superior Court, and Charles Jenkins, who tried cases here, were delegates to the national convention.

Despite his stand on Texas, Clay easily carried Laurens County in the 1844 election. While James Knox Polk had posted the highest democratic vote total in twelve years with fifteen votes, Clay tallied six hundred and eighty-six votes for a total of ninety eight percent of the vote. While Twiggs and Pulaski counties and most of west Central Georgia sided with the Democrats, Washington and Wilkinson county voters shifted their support to the Whig candidate. Emanuel County, which had been a steadfastly loyal democratic county, dropped their support down to the seventy percent range. James Polk garnered fifty one percent of the vote in Georgia narrowly defeating Clay by a margin of two thousand votes. The outcome could have been undoubtedly changed by Clay's reversal of his stand on Texas.

The Whigs of Laurens County invited their fellow Whigs in the adjoining counties to a mass meeting in Dublin on the 25th of October 1844. The Invitation Committee, composed of Robert Robinson, Allen Ashley, Charles P. Creech, Hugh McCall Moore, and Charles B. Guyton advertised the event in "Southern Recorder" and promised a free barbecue for all those attending the event. Another meeting was held on the 9th of June 1845 to form an alliance with Wilkinson County Whigs for the Georgia Senate election. Attending that meeting were Freeman H. Rowe, E.J. Blackshear, T.N. Guyton, Dr. Nathan Tucker, Ira Stanley, Robert Robinson, Russell Kellam, T.C. Spicer, Cullen O'Neal, R.A. Love, David Blackshear, John McLendon, Hugh M. Moore, Charles B. Guyton, Jeremiah H. Yopp, Edward Perry, Byrd Allen, D.F. Scarborough, David Harvard, Wiley J. Bender, Andrew Y. Hampton, Sugar Forrest, L.M. Hudson, Winfield Wright, J.T. Linder, Hardy Smith, and William McLendon. Meanwhile, those few Democrats who lived in Laurens County elected William Godfrey to represent the county at the party convention in Milledgeville on June 16, 1845.

The Whigs of Laurens County met with the Whigs of Wilkinson County in July of 1845. The meeting was held at Centerville Academy, which was located north of Dublin on the Mt. Olive/Claxton Dairy Road near the current location of Centerville Baptist Church. Attending that meeting were Jeremiah Yopp, Winfield Wright, J.T. Linder, Allen Ashley, D.F. Scarborough, J. Wilkinson, Hardy Smith, Charles B. Guyton, David Harvard, William McLendon, Bird Allen, Wiley J. Bender, William Adams, Cullen O'Neal, Dr. Nathan Tucker, Robert Robinson, Edward Perry, L.M. and L.M. Hudson. The two counties chose Wesley King, of Wilkinson County, to represent the party in the Senate race. Dr. Nathan Tucker was chosen to represent the county on the State Executive Committee. Eli Warren, a former resident of Laurens County, represented Houston County on the committee.

During this period, many of these men represented Laurens County in the state legislature. The Whigs who served in the Georgia House from 1836 to 1852 were Bryan Allen, Andrew Y. Hampton, Robert Robinson, J. W. Yopp, Allen Ashley, and Charles B. Guyton. Robinson served in the House for thirteen consecutive years - a county record which stood for one hundred fifty four years until broken by Dubose Porter in 1996. The Whigs serving in the Georgia Senate during the period were Winfield Wright and Nathan Tucker.

A meeting was held in Dublin on June 1, 1847 for the purpose of electing delegates to the gubernatorial convention. Attending that meeting were F.H. Rowe, J.H. Yopp, Robert Robinson, John Love, D. Harvard, W. Wright, J.T. Linder, JohnYopp, L.E. Smith, A.R. Kellam, D.R. Maddox, Henry C. Fuqua, Hardy Smith, C.B. Guyton, W.W. O'Neal, R. Robinson, Wm. McLendon, Dr. Nathan Tucker, W.D. Coney, Ira Stanley, L.N. Hudson, D. Roberts, J.N. Hampton, and John Thompson. (the first three of these were chosen as delegates.)

Party members came together again in Dublin on March 10, 1848. Cullen O'Neal, C.B. Guyton, Ira Stanley, Iverson L. Harris, A.R. Kellam, W.H. Connelly, James L. Seward, Dr. Nathan Tucker, J.W. Yopp, Edward Sheftall, and L.M. Hudson chose John Lowther and Robert Robinson as delegates to the State Convention which was held in Milledgeville on 8th of May. The principal issue of the election of 1848 was slavery. The Whig candidate and hero of the Mexican War, Zachary Taylor, was non-committal on the issue. Democrat Lewis Cass would leave the issue up to the individual states. Van Buren attempted to resurrect his Presidency and entered the race as a "Free Soil" candidate. The Democrats continued to gain strength in the county with twenty five votes, but once again couldn't overcome the five hundred and sixty seven Whig votes. Montgomery and Washington counties remained in the Whig column, but all other counties surrounding Laurens voted for Cass. Despite his heroic status, Taylor barely carried Georgia - winning with only fifty one percent of the vote.

Edward J. Blackshear, who was selected at a convention of Laurens and Wilkinson county Whigs at Centerville Academy on July 7, 1849, was elected to the Georgia Senate. The beginning of the end of the Whig party in Laurens County came in 1850. Following the Clay Compromise of 1850, an election was held on the issue of slavery. The Constitutional Union Party of Georgia was led by Howell Cobb. Locally, E.J. Blackshear and Charles Guyton led the Union Party. When Laurens County's votes were tabulated, two hundred seventy two men voted for the Union while no one voted for the Resistance. The Union party was committed to seeking a workable solution with the North over the issue of slavery. T.M. Yopp, R.A. Love, and John W. Yopp represented the county at the Constitutional Union Convention at Milledgeville on June 2, 1851. Attorney John R. Cochran was chosen to represent the county in the Democratic State Convention in May of 1852. E.J. Blackshear, Cullen O'Neal, F.H. Rowe, J.R. Coombs, J.W. Yopp, C.B. Guyton, E.H. Blackshear, Hardy Smith, and T.N. Guyton, all former Whigs, met at the Union Meeting in Dublin on August 2, 1852. Franklin Pierce won the presidency in a nationwide landslide over another Mexican War hero, Winfield Scott, who failed to carry his home state of Virginia. In Laurens County, Scott got sixty seven votes, while Pierce got sixty three. Former Whig and then Georgia Governor, Howell Cobb, carried the county with five hundred seventy nine votes. Former Governor, Charles McDonald managed to get seventy-six votes. Cobb had supported Daniel Webster, but Webster died nine days before the election - a fact which didn't seem to matter to the one hundred and sixty eight Laurens Countians who voted for the dead Yankee statesman. The Whig Party in Laurens County died. Laurens Countians supported the American party in 1856, which included the remnants of the Whigs and the Union Party, which was opposed to secession in 1860.


The Lifeblood of Laurens County

It is our county's greatest natural resource. When its waters are too voluminous, a disaster follows. A disaster precedes when its waters are too gry.(no that's the right word, look it up in the dictionary). It derives its name from the people who once lived along its banks and subsisted on its bounty of fresh water and animal life. The word "Oconee," according to the latest linguistic studies, is actually a two-word phrase - "O" meaning "of" and "Conee" meaning skunk, or "place of the skunk." Earlier linguists attribute the name to the phrase "water eyes of the hills" - a much more romantic-sounding name for this body of water which has been an integral part of our county's civilization for the last eon. Which name came first, the Indian community Oconee Old Town, which was located in southern Baldwin County, or the Oconee River cannot be determined. Other variations of the spelling of the name are Ocone, Oconi, Ocony, Ekwoni, and Ukwu'nu. The middle part of the river has been referred to as "Ethoho," while the lower portion which passes through Laurens County has been called "Ithlobee" by Indians who lived in the area until the end of the 18th century.

The Oconee River, Georgia's third longest single-stream river, begins near the sleepy community of Lula in Hall County, Georgia. It flows for two hundred fifty miles in a southeasterly direction to a point between Lumber City and Hazlehurst, where it joins the Ocmulgee River to form the Altamaha. Its basin covers fifty-four hundred square miles, which is a little larger than the size of the state of Connecticut. For thousands of years, those who lived along the river depended on the Oconee for food, water, and transportation. It has been said that its waters were crystal clear - untainted by the runoff from the sandy clay farm lands, which were highly prized by the early settlers.

Beginning in 1819, the waters of the Oconee gave merchants a way to ship goods into and out of the Central Georgia area. When the railroads came, river transportation began to subside, except for a brief period immediately prior to the Civil War. After the war, and before railroads criss-crossed the entire state, river transportation in the middle Oconee region was revived by Captain R.C. Henry, Captain W.W. Ward and financier, Col. John M. Stubbs.

In order to maintain adequate and reliable shipping lanes, financial aid, in the form of federal government money, was necessary. Congressmen James H. Blount and Charles F. Crisp complied with the demands of their constituents and supplied the necessary federal monies to study the river and to aid in the clearing of rocks, snags, and the always dangerous sandbars. A study was commissioned by Congress in 1888 directing the Army Corps of Engineers (under the direction of Lt. O.M. Carter) to prepare a report on the river, including the cost of clearing it and the cost of maintaining it as a commercial waterway. The report estimated that $171,000 was necessary to maintain a navigable channel and that an annual appropriation of $5,000 was needed to maintain the river in a navigable condition. The report only covered the 150-mile portion of the river below Milledgeville at the fall line, which was the terminus of any freight-carrying boat. Actually, by the time of the survey, no boats could go beyond the Central of Georgia Railroad bridge near Oconee in Washington County.

A.S. Cooper, in his meticulous survey, noted the course of the river, depths at standard intervals, and the volume and velocity of the water at selected sites. Cooper's men measured the mean low water velocity of the river at Dublin to be 1.34 feet per second, which converts to 4824 feet per hour. At that rate it would take about two days for the water to flow from the northern end of the county at the mouth of Big Sandy Creek along its 42.7 mile long trek to Bonnie Clabber at the southern tip of Laurens County. The engineers determined that, during the river's course through the county, its elevation above sea level fell 40.5 feet from its high point of 176.6 feet at Big Sandy to 136.1 feet at Bonnie Clabber. The volume of water passing Dublin at low water was determined to be 1990.5 cubic feet per second, which would fill an average size house in six to eight seconds. Of course, the volume in times of flood was much higher.

Cooper's report, made during the year 1889, noted thirty-five places along the river, beginning at Big Sandy Creek and including White Bluff, Kittrell's Landing, Guyton's Bluff, Hobbs' Boat Yard, Blackshear's Ferry, Blackshear's Landing, Carr's Shoal, Dominey's Landing, Keene's Landing, Dublin Ferry, Rowe's Landing, Fuller's Landing, Burch's Landing, Little Buzzard Bar, Big Buzzard Bar, Drowning Cow Bight, Fish Trap Cut, Clark's Landing, Troup's Lake, Pritchett's Landing (Smith Lake), Wring Jaw Bight, Poor Robin's Bluff, Pine Lake, Walton's Landing, Green's Folly, Shady Field Cut, Shady Bluff, Cooper's Landing, Hall's Warehouse, Cooper's Bight, Branch's Landing, Upper Travers Bight, Berry Hill, Davis' Landing, and Bonnie Clabber.

The river was at its widest point of four hundred and fifty feet just above Guyton's Bluff. In the area between Big Buzzard Bar, Fish Trap Cut, and Poor Robin's Bluff the river broadened to four hundred feet, a fact not unnoticed by the Indians who built settlements there. The river was deepest in the area near Riverview Park between Rowe's Landing and Dublin. The water was shallowest just above Guyton's Bluff, the widest spot along the entire river, except for the last mile before the Oconee's confluence with the Ocmulgee.

Most of the places along the river in Laurens County needed very little attention. The major trouble areas ranged from Carr's Shoals, where a few cubic yards of rock needed to be removed, to the main danger areas of Big and Little Buzzard Bars, where the sandbars encroached about half way into the three hundred foot wide river. The engineers recommended that two closing dams be built at the upper end of Fish Trap Cut in order to give more water at the lower end of the cut.

Over the years, the method of measuring the depth of the river has changed. The original site of the measurement of the river's depth appears to have been from the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad Bridge. The gauge was moved to the highway bridge in 1934. The highest depth ever recorded was 33 feet at the railroad bridge in 1925. As the river reached about 27 feet, many lots and houses were flooded in the Scottsville area. The waters again rose over its flood stage on April 12, 1936. During that flood, known to have been the biggest in the last hundred years, the water at the at Blackshear's Ferry rose to 33.4 feet, while it reached 32.8 feet at Dublin. Mrs. Verdie Rowland remembered seeing water lapping against the bottom of the railroad bridge just below the passenger bridge. Rawls A. Watson, a long time ferryman, reported that the river had not been that high since 1888. Several strange sights were spotted by railroad workers. The first was a pair of wash tubs floating down the river. One contained a big clock and the other a big black cat. One questionable informant reported that he saw a log floating in the river with a wild cat on one end and a rabbit on the other.


The Epitome of a True Southern Lawyer

Olin J. Wimberly, one of Macon's finest attorneys at the turn of the 20th Century, was born on the Moses Guyton place in the Buckeye District of Laurens County on May 22, 1862. Wimberly was born in Laurens County instead of in his parent's family home county of Twiggs County because the senior Wimberly was serving in the Confederate Army. The Army was about to begin its first major series of battles on the Virginia Peninsula. His father's folks were one of the old and prominent families of Twiggs County. His father, James Lowry Wimberly, was a son of an itinerant Methodist minister, Frederick D. Wimberly. James L. Wimberly, who was educated as an attorney, served as Judge of the Ordinary Court of Stewart County, Georgia for several terms and as a judge of the Superior Court of the Chattahoochee Circuit. Judge Wimberly served as a delegate to the Confederate Electoral College, voting for the country's first and only president, Jefferson Davis. When the war was over, Judge Wimberly was sent to Washington, D.C. as a delegate seeking acceptable peace terms. In 1877, Judge Wimberly was selected as a delegate to form Georgia's new constitution.

Olin Wimberly's mother's people were from two of Laurens County's most prominent families, the Guytons and Loves. Wimberly's mother, Helen Augusta Guyton was a daughter of Moses Guyton. Moses and his brothers, John and Charles, were all sons of Moses and Tabitha Saxton Guyton, who were among the largest plantation owners in the fertile Buckeye District of northeastern Laurens County. Each of the Guyton brothers were prominent in the political and agricultural affairs of the county. Olin's mother, Mary Ann Love Guyton, was a daughter of Amos Love, Laurens County's first Clerk of the Superior Court. Her brother, the Hon. Peter Early Love, was a physician, judge, and a member of Georgia's congressional delegation. The entire delegation resigned their seats in Congress when Georgia seceded from the Union in 1861.

Olin Wimberly was raised on his father's place in Stewart County, Georgia. His family was wealthy enough to weather the storm of reconstruction following the Civil War. Wimberly graduated with first honors from the prestigious Vanderbilt University in 1882 at the age of twenty. His first love was mathematics, which led to his acceptance of a position as a professor of mathematics at Professor's McNulty's college in Dawson, Georgia. While teaching in Dawson, Wimberly met the true love of his life. Wimberly fell in love with Mattie McNulty, one of his students and a daughter of Prof. McNulty, the dean of the college. Upon his reaching the age of majority, Wimberly decided to make a career change and began studying law in his father's law office in 1883. After his admission to the bar at Lumpkin in 1884, Wimberly moved to the city of Macon where he established a practice in 1885 in partnership with Clem P. Steed. Wimberly combined his ability as a teacher with his skills as a lawyer and taught Equity at Mercer Law School for the last decade and a half of his life.

Wimberly was idolized by his contemporaries as "having a boundless capacity for intricate details, prodigious energy and labor in the preparation of his causes coupled with an ability to work out the last analysis of the most abstruse problems of the law." His capacity for work was simply marvelous," said one lawyer, who also said of Wimberly, "that men must have that by nature, they cannot acquire it." Wimberly had an amazing memory, rarely forgetting any details, even the most trivial. His home library was one of the finest in Macon, if not in the entire state. Wimberly was fluent in German as well as an expert in mathematics. He observed photographs of Dr. Frederick Cook, who claimed to be the first man to reach the North Pole. Wimberly calculated the angle of the shadow of a flag pole in the picture and determined that Cook was no where near the pole as he had claimed, a fact which was later determined to be true.

His personal character was impeccable. Wimberly, a true southern gentleman, was a devoted father to his seven children. He cared little for money, except when it was needed for the comfort of his family. His dress was simple - a simple long black coat with a high collar and black bow tie. Arthur H. Codington, in his report to the twenty-seventh convention of the Georgia Bar Association in 1910, heaped one accolade after another on the virtues of this public spirted citizen.

Ninety years ago this week on January 16, 1910, Wimberly went to work in office as he had done for the last twenty five years. Wimberly was having a conversation with E.R. Orr of Dublin in front of the fire place in his office. Without any hint or warning, Wimberly collapsed just after noon. Death was immediate and was determined to be caused by a cerebral hemorrhage. Doctors concluded the hemorrhage was ironically super-induced by tremendous study and mental exertion, the qualities which led to Wimberly's high regard by his peers and friends. Wimberly was funeralized by Rev. W.N. Ainsworth, a former minister of the First Methodist Church of Dublin, and who within the decade would become Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. His body was carried to his grave by his most valued and trusted friends and laid to rest in Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, where old Macon's most prestigious and prominent families are buried. In the days when lawyers were accorded the total respect of the community, Olin J. Wimberly was a lawyer's lawyer and a friend of every client he ever represented. The standards set by Wimberly in his professional and personal life are ones that everyone, not just the members of the legal profession, should strive to attain and maintain.


Momentary Passion

It mattered not at all to Jackson Terry that he was the first and only member of his race to accomplish a feat in the 203-year history of Laurens County. His lust for money and its evil roots, along with too much of the spirits, led to his undesirable title. Since and before 1840, Jackson Terry was the first and only white man in the history of Laurens County, Georgia to be legally hung by his neck until his death.

Jackson Terry wandered from place to place in search of a way to make a living. He wound up in Virginia, where he met one Captain James Hannah. The captain, a robust man of 60 years of age with tolerably long snow white hair, hired Terry to drive his wagon to Macon, Georgia, where they planned to sell tobacco. Terry had lived in Macon before, so it seemed only natural to take the assignment as a way of getting back to familiar territory and making a good wage in the process.

Terry and Hannah agreed that in compensation for his services, Terry would receive the excess profits of more than fifteen cents per pound for tobacco which would get wet when the wagon crossed creeks and rivers along their path. In his spare time, Terry diligently worked on stripping the damaged leaves. At first, the salvaged tobacco brought a handsome profit of ten cents per pound for Jackson, who expected to be paid at the end of each day. Each night Terry requested his pay. And each night, the Captain refused his demands.

The two men stopped at Steele's Mill on the Pee Dee River in North Carolina, where they purchased a 10-gallon keg of whiskey. Along their way, Terry, at Captain Hannah's request, sold whiskey, which in Terry's words was, "contrary to the laws of the state." They stopped again in Camden, South Carolina, where they refilled the keg and resumed the dispensing of spiritous liquors to any thirsty traveler with money.

At one point in South Carolina, their scheme was nearly discovered by an overseer of a group of slaves. Terry distracted the overseer by telling him that the dog they had with them would bite if the man went near the wagon without him. The ruse worked. Captain Hannah had enough time to hide the keg and the men went on their way. Terry later self servingly explained, "After this, I was determined to sell no more spirits, and on my refusal to do so, Capt. Hannah became vexed." Terry related that Hannah had cursed him although he thought him to be a member of the Methodist Church. The driver continued, "Captain Hannah said he would as soon be at the Devil as to have one in his employment who would not obey his orders." Despite Terry's resolution to stop selling liquor, Capt. Hannah refilled the keg in Augusta.

The relationship between the two travelers began to unravel at their campsite in Louisville, Georgia. Terry started a fire and set out some meat and coffee to cook. Realizing the deluge of rain made it impossible to cook bread, Terry went into town to find a freshly cooked loaf. Upon his return, Jackson found that the Captain had eaten his supper and thrown out the leftovers before retiring for the night. Terry held his tongue. In fact, both men did, well into the next morning. When they began to talk, Terry reported that the Captain used very harsh language against him.

It was still raining the next night when the two-horse wagon pulled into a campsite near Robert Higdon's mill on Hunger and Hardship Creek, just north of the village of Dublin. Terry cooked supper and laid it out on a stool, along with a sufficient cup of whiskey. Instantly, Hannah forbade his driver's attempt to drink any coffee out of a small iron pot. After the Captain finished his meal, Terry took the coffee out of the pot and drank it.

As the next day dawned, Terry and Hannah talked of heading to Clinton in Jones County. "He wanted to go by a circuitous route, and I thought it was out of the way to go by the route he recommended," confessed Terry, who had only promised to go to Macon. Hannah ordered Terry to grease the axles of his wagon, which he did. The discussion became more heated. Hannah threatened to knock Terry in the head with a spike. Terry retorted, "Get me a switch large enough to whip me!" Tempers subsided. When Terry asked Hannah how he wanted a squirrel cooked for breakfast, there was no reply. The squirrel was thrown into the frying pan along with some other victuals. Hannah complained about the food, to which Terry responded, "If you get me some good food, I will cook it." Hannah complained the bread was too thick, so Terry cooked a thinner piece. Hannah asked for a dram of liquor with his coffee. Both men began to imbibe one drink after another.

Captain Hannah stood up, picked up a knife, and assaulted the five-foot-tall Terry, who reached for an axe and whacked the Captain across the neck, nearly severing his head. Jackson panicked. He called to the Captain by name. There was no answer. He ran down to the mill pond and filled his bucket with clean water. Terrified and regretting what he had just done, Terry ran back up the hill, started a lightwood fire and went over to his comrade to check if he was still alive. As he saw blood spuing from Hannah's neck, he realized he had killed his antagonist. Terry stated that he told Hannah that this was his fault and he should have left him alone. Terry rifled through Hannah's belongings, taking about a hundred dollars and some of his papers. He cut the rope tied to one horse and set out to Wilkinson County to the north. He stopped for the night at Mr. King's house before going to Macon.

As the day light illuminated the scene, Captain Hannah's bloody corpse was found. Incensed at the murder, local officials began to investigate. They came up with a description of the murder and word got out as fast as it could. There were no newspapers, phones, or telegraphs around. John M. Higdon and John Spicer offered a reward for the suspect's capture, a man by them as "Terrell." Investigators followed the old dog which had accompanied the men and the other horse, which broke his rope and followed Terry's horse. A few days later, Jackson Terry was arrested at the race track in Macon. Hannah's papers and cash were found on his person.

Jackson Terry was kept in the Laurens County jail until he was indicted by the Grand Jury. A trial was held on June 15, 1840. Judge Carleton Cole was sitting on the bench. Solicitor General William Wiggins called the case to trial. Representing the pauper Terry were Isham Saffold, Thomas C. Sullivan, Augustin Hansell and Peter Early Love, all very prominent attorneys. Hansell and Love, a native of Laurens, were both prominent jurists and statesmen in the latter half of the 20th Century.

After a brief trial, jury foreman Stephen B. Hester read the verdict of guilty. Three days later, Judge Cole ordered that Terry be hung by his neck until his death. On Friday, July 24, 1840 between the appointed hanging times of between ten and two, Jackson Terry walked up the gallows.

When asked, Jackson Terry confessed the story, his story, which you have just read. He concluded his repentance by saying, "I am doomed to die, and today I shall pay the great debt of nature, the only retribution I can offer for my crime - a crime which was committed under the influence of a momentary passion and for which I most seriously repent. And, may the Lord have mercy on my soul. Amen." The trap door dropped - another death on Tobacco Road.